An Inside Look Into A Freelance Editor’s Work

Check out these bookshelves!  These are just some of the books which Write2Ignite team member, Brenda Covert, has edited. (She edited all of the books on the second shelf and about half on the top shelf.)

Brenda took time out of her busy writing, editing, and grandparenting schedule to answer some questions about what she does and the common mistakes writers make.

CAROL: Do you specialize in editing certain types of manuscripts?

BRENDA: I specialize in editing Christian or family-friendly works for any age. I’ve edited everything from picture books to adult novels, both fiction and nonfiction, and that includes a cookbook or two! I avoid horror and erotica. I don’t read them, so they wouldn’t be a good fit for my editing skills.

CAROL: What are the five most common mistakes you find in manuscripts?

BRENDA: 1) A common mistake new authors make is trying to tell the entire backstory before diving into the story the readers were promised. Don’t waste time doing that. Bring on the drama! Bring on the conflict!

2) This doesn’t happen often, but if an author doesn’t create a timeline of events for themselves, there may be a character who does something unexpected, such as going back to work a few days after dying. Quite entertaining, to be honest, but I’m going to ask the author to fix it.

3) Comma mis-usage. They may be sprinkled indiscriminately throughout the manuscript like pepper, or used too sparingly, but not being sure of comma rules is normal. After all, there are 47 comma rules, and they represent job security for editors!

4) Plagiarism is a problem I’ve seen with poetry, borrowed anecdotes, and occasionally news articles. Just because something is on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s in the public domain and free to copy. Do your research and know copyright law!

5) Including lyrics (because they are meaningful). Even when you give proper credit, you stand a chance of being sued by the owner of the copyright, so always request permission to use, even if you only want to use a line or two! (You will likely have to pay a fee for use.) Otherwise, I tell my authors to use only the song title and share why the song is meaningful without quoting from it.

CAROL: What is the most common advice you end up giving writers?

BRENDA: Make sure to include as many of the 5 senses in your scenes as you can. Make your readers feel like they are there, wherever there happens to be!

CAROL: If you had a HUGE platform to shout out what you want writers to know, what would you say?

BRENDA: First impressions matter! Whether you intend to self-publish or hope to land a contract with a traditional publishing house, you’ll want to take your time to polish your manuscript. Definitely don’t rush to self-publish. If you want readers to clamor for your second, third, or fourth book, your first book has to shine, leaving them wanting more.

CAROL: How did you become an editor?

BRENDA: I started young, grading classmates’ spelling tests! English was always my favorite subject. Every employer I worked for after graduating from university ended up asking me to proofread documents. Once I began writing educational teaching materials for children in 2002, I received on-the-job training to be an editor as well. I moved on to work for a publishing house in 2011. Of all the resources that line an editor’s office, The Chicago Manual of Style is the single most vital tool!

CAROL: What is your favorite part of being an editor? Any success stories you’d like to share?

BRENDA: I love helping authors polish their manuscripts so they can present their best to their readership. I delight in those “a-ha” moments when I’ve offered a suggestion for solving a problem, and the author gets excited about the re-write! As an editor for Ambassador International, I saw a huge number of manuscripts become books, and many of them line my shelves today.


Freelance author and editor Brenda Covert was first published for pay in 1999 with an article in the May/June issue of Today’s Christian Woman and a Thanksgiving poem in Clubhouse Jr. Since 2002, Brenda has written more than four hundred short children’s stories for Union Gospel Press’s Sunday school curriculum. Her stories, most of which are written for the nine-to-eleven age group, entertain as well as offer a lesson on living for our Savior. She also published numerous scripts for use in schools, the two most popular being K.C.’s Dream and The Constitutional Convention. Additionally, she has written poetry for the Adult Bible Study published by Union Gospel Press.

Brenda has been editing since 2002, first in the educational field and then in the Christian/family-friendly market. Her editing experience goes from picture books to chapter books—including Johanna’s Journey: Call to Freedom (a finalist for the 2015 Selah Award)—to YA novels and adult fiction and nonfiction, including inspirational books and Bible studies.

Brenda has two grown children, a new grandchild, two blogs that she promises to devote more attention to, and more cats than an allergic woman should have! (Want one?)

You can find Brenda online at If you’re especially fond of Christmas, you’ll enjoy her blog at Follow her on Twitter, where she’s  @TheBrendaCovert.

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